Glossary of Eco Words

I didn’t write all of these definitions; But was tired of going to too many sites to find out exactly what each means. So Here they are all cut and pasted together with some interesting links.

Abaca: Abaca is a species of banana native to the Philippines. The plant is prized for the strength of its fiber which is extracted from the leaves and stems.

Abiotic: Non-living; devoid of life

Absorption:  Process by which a substance of particle is drawn into the structure of another

Acid Free: – papers which are free from traces of acid. i.e. made under neutral sizing conditions
Acid Rain : The precipitation of dilute solutions of strong mineral acids, formed by the mixing in the atmosphere of various industrial pollutants (primarily sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides) with naturally occurring oxygen and water vapour.

Acrylic A fleece blanket, an artist’s paint, an airplane windshield. What these things might have in common is this synthetic, petroleum-based polymer resin. In the form of hard plastic (known by brand names Plexiglas and Lucite, among others), it is strong, clear, and shatter-resistant. As a textile fiber, it resists shrinkage, stains, and wrinkling. As a binder in paint it dries quickly and holds color well. But acrylic also has its downsides: Since it’s petroleum-based, it increases our dependence on fossil fuels. It also burns easily. Its production exposes workers to toxic and potentially carcinogenic chemicals. And it is difficult to dispose of, as it biodegrades very slowly and recyclingoptions are limited. Acrylic plastics are labeled with a 7 in the triangular recycling symbol, and few recycling programs accept them.

Acupressure: Based on the principles of acupuncture, this ancient Chinese technique involves the use of finger pressure (rather than needles) on specific points along the body to treat ailments such as tension and stress, aches and pains, menstrual cramps, or arthritis. The system is also used for general preventive health care.

Acupuncture: In acupuncture, fine needles are inserted at specific points to stimulate, disperse, and regulate the flow of chi, or vital energy, and restore a healthy energy balance. Often used in the United States for pain relief, acupuncture is also used to improve well-being and treat acute, chronic, and degenerative conditions in children and adults.


Aerosal: Suspended droplets of liquid or liquid dispersions in air.

Aggregate:As a kid, you might have known aggregate as the worst part of getting a skinned knee. This construction material is any of a variety of mineral substances, including gravel, crushed stone, and sand-and the stuff you might land on if you fall off your bike. It is a fundamental ingredient in concrete and asphalt, and can be used as a base for building foundations and as a roof surfacing material. Crushed, recycled concrete can also be used as an aggregate material.

Aikido: Like other Japanese martial arts, aikido is both a method of self-defense and a spiritual discipline. The goal is to harmonize one’s chi (vital energy) with that of one’s opponent, so that the opponent’s strength and weight are used against him or her. Many of the moves are flowing and graceful, similar to those of tai chi.

Air barrier–A material installed around the home’s frame to prevent or reduce the infiltration of air into the interior that may be too hot, cold or moist for comfort.

Air Pollution :The presence of contaminants or pollutants substances in the air that interfere with human health or welfare, or produce other harmful environmental effects

Air sealing–The steps taken to prevent uncontrolled inward and outward air leakage in the building envelope.

AHAs:(Alpha Hydroxy Acid). Why? Because scientific research has discovered that AHA, a natural type of acid found in fruits, plants and milk, is effective at reducing the signs of aging by lessening the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Added to various skin care creams and serums, it’s also an excellent exfoliator and promotes moisture restoration and retention.

Alpaca: Animal produces a thick, full coat that makes incredibly warm jackets, sweaters, hats and blankets. Alpaca fiber is stronger, lighter and more resilient than wool. It’s also finer than cashmere and equal to the warmth of Gortex.

Alternative Energy: Energy from a source other than the conventional fossil-fuel sources of oil, natural gas and coal (i.e. wind, running water, the sun).

Alternative Fuels:Alternative fuels are derived from resources other than petroleum. Some are produced domestically, reducing dependence on foreign oil, and some are derived from renewable sources. Often, they produce less pollution than gasoline or diesel. Source: U.S. Department of Energy / Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Aluminum, recycledInstead of allowing it to take up space at the bottom of a landfill, savvy home furnishings designers have retooled aluminum into some of the coolest additions to the modern home.

Ancient Forest FriendlyA philosophy of not contributing to the destruction of ancient and endangered forests in the production of paper materials, manufactured with a high percentage of post- consumer waste and no virgin fiber from old-growth, ancient or endangered forests:

Antimony his brittle, silvery white heavy metal occurs naturally in the Earth’s crust. Antimony is mixed with other metals to form alloys that are used in materials such as pipes and solder; in powder form, it is added to some plastics and textiles to reduce their flammability. Mining releases it into the environment, as do incinerators and coal-burning power plants. The tiny particles can be carried by air and then settle-contaminating soil, streams, and lakes. Exposure to high levels of antimony (as may occur when working in industries that process the material) is hazardous, and can cause lung and heart problems and gastrointestinal upset, among other symptoms.

Appliance Energy Efficiency Ratings:The ratings under which specified appliances convert energy sources into useful energy, as determined by procedures established by the U.S. Department of Energy. Source: U.S. Department of Energy / Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Appropriate Technology: Technology that creates minimal environmental impact while serving basic human needs. Uses the simplest level of technology that can effectively achieve the intended purpose in a particular location.

Asbestos There is little debate about the dangers of this silicate mineral fiber, once commonly used in insulation, fire retardant materials, and other construction elements. Asbestos fibers are invisible to the naked eye, and when disturbed they can be inhaled, causing serious harm, including lung cancer and asbestosis, which is damage to lung tissue. Asbestos is still present in numerous construction elements, particularly in older buildings; to limit exposure, special care must be taken in its removal. Children are especially vulnerable, and asbestos-related disease can take years to manifest itself, so evidence of the material in older schools is of particular concern.

Ayurvedic Medicine: Practiced in India for more than 5,000 years, ayurvedic tradition holds that illness is a state of imbalance among the body’s systems that can be detected through such diagnostic procedures as reading the pulse and observing the tongue. Nutrition counseling, massage, natural medications, meditation, and other modalities are used to address a broad spectrum of ailments, from allergies to AIDS. (Some practitioners in this category practice Maharishi Ayur-Ved, a contemporary interpretation of ayurvedic medicine inspired by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation.)

Bamboo: In fact, it is nature’s most sustainable resource, grown without pesticides or chemicals, 100% biodegradable and naturally regenerative. Bamboo is actually a tropical grass with an extensive root system that sends out an average of four to six new shoots per year, naturally replenishing itself and growing to heights of 60 feet or more. Some bamboo species grow up to four feet per day and can be harvested every three to four years. There are over 1,000 documented uses of bamboo, from furniture to ply boards that match the properties of conventional wood to a replacement for disposable plates and utensils. Bamboo is also being spun into luxurious fabrics and is leading the charge for

Bagasse– Here’s a sweet find: This byproduct of sugarcane processing is a type ofbiomass, an organic, non-petroleum fuel source. Bagasse is the fibrous material left over after sugarcane stalks are pressed to release their juice. Rather than tossing this material away, workers can burn it, providing the fuel to run the mill itself, or creating energy to sell to a local utility company. It’s a clean, efficient process, and entirely free of waste, since the ash left over after burning can then be used in the sugarcane fields to enrich the soil. Alternatively, bagasse fiber can be used as a sturdy, substitute for cardboard or polystyrene-in food containers, for example. It’s yet another reason to feel good about your sugar fix

Batt Insulation A familiar sight in unfinished attics, this material is also called blanket insulation. It is typically glass wool (fiberglass) or other fibers in a sheet form. It is sometimes enclosed with a facing of kraft paper, foil, or vinyl, as an air and/or vapor barrier. Less expensive and less effective than professional,blown-in insulation, it must be installed with a fine attention to detail to prevent any gaps or pockets that will allow air to pass through. Care should be taken when handling fiber insulation to prevent skin or lung irritation from the fibers.

BioAccumulate Exposure to dangerous chemicals adds up over time. This term refers to just that-the gradual buildup, in an organism, of a substance that is not easily metabolized and eliminated. Toxic chemicals such as dioxins can bioaccumulate in the systems of cattle, fish, and chicken, for example, and enter the systems of humans when they digest these foods. In a human, repeated exposure to toxins considered safe in small amounts can bioaccumulate and may become hazardous to one’s health.

Biodegradable: Used to describe the properties of items that will naturally decompose if left in exposed outdoor environments.

Biodiesel:Biodiesel is an alternative fuel made from virgin vegetable oil or used vegetable oil. Even animal fats like beef tallow and fish oil can be used to make biodiesel fuel. Biodiesel may be blended with conventional diesel to get different blends such as B2 (2 percent biodiesel and 98 percent conventional diesel) or B20 (20 percent biodiesel) or it can be used as 100 percent biodiesel (B100). Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Biofuels:Biofuels are any fuel derived from biomass. Agricultural products specifically grown for conversion to biofuels include corn and soybeans. R&D is being conducted to improve the conversion of non-grain crops, such as switchgrass and a variety of woody crops, to biofuels. The energy in biomass can be accessed by turning the raw materials of the feedstock, such as starch and cellulose, into a usable form. Transportation fuels are made from biomass through biochemical or thermochemical processes. Known as biofuels, these include ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, biocrude and methane. Source: U.S. Department of Energy / Biomass ProgramBiomass: Biomass is any organic material made from plants or animals. Domestic biomass resources include agricultural and forestry residues, municipal solid wastes, industrial wastes, and terrestrial and aquatic crops grown solely for energy purposes. Biomass can be converted to other usable forms of energy and is an attractive petroleum alternative for a number of reasons. First, it is a renewable resource that is more evenly distributed over the Earth’s surface than are finite energy sources, and may be exploited using more environmentally friendly technologies. Agriculture and forestry residues, and in particular residues from paper mills, are the most common biomass resources used for generating electricity and power, including industrial process heat and steam, as well as for a variety of biobased products. Use of liquid transportation fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, however, currently derived primarily from agricultural crops, is increasing dramatically. Source: U.S. Department of Energy / Biomass Program


Biodiversity: The propensity in ecosystems (when untouched) to have a vast variety of plant, animal and other living species. Biodiversity encompasses habitat diversity, species diversity and genetic diversity.

Biodynamic AgricultureYou might call it extreme organics. Like organic farming, biodynamic farming is free of pesticides, etc. What distinguishes it is that the farm is managed as a self-sustaining living organism. Huh? Think of biodynamic farmers as holistic doctors and the land as the patient. They diagnose what is out of balance in the environment and then prescribe natural remedies, including the right plants, animals and insects to restore balance and turn the land into a self-regulating habitat. It emphasizes manures and composts and excludes the use of artificial chemicals on either the soil or plants. It uses herbal and mineral preparations as compost additives and field sprays along with the astronomical calendar to determine planning and harvesting times.

Biofeedback: A technique used especially for stress-related conditions such as asthma, migraines, insomnia, and high blood pressure, biofeedback is a way of monitoring minute metabolic changes in one’s own body (e.g., temperature changes, heart rate, and muscle tension) with the aid of sensitive machines. By consciously visualizing, relaxing, or imagining while observing light, sound, or metered feedback, the client learns to make subtle adjustments to move toward a more balanced internal state.

BioPlastic If The Graduate were remade today, it might be this phrase ringing in Dustin Hoffman’s ears as the key to his future: bioplastics. Plastic does not necessarily have to be made from petroleum. Bioplastics are made from renewable, natural sources such as plant starch and sugar cane; once disposed of, they will safely and naturally biodegrade. Some bioplastic products can even be composted in ordinary compost piles.

The promise of bioplastic is significant; currently, after transportation and energy, no other application requires more crude oil than the production of conventional plastics. Globally, more than 200 billion pounds of plastic is created each year, most of which ends up in throwaway products and ultimately, in landfills. Bioplastic is available in a wide range of products today, from food packaging to car parts (scientists are even working on converting certain bioplastics into fuel). Its availability should expand and its price should come down as oil prices continue to rise, and eco-awareness grows.

Blackwater: Wastewater generated by toilets

Blown In Insulation There are numerous ways to add a layer of protection between your interior living spaces and the outside world. Blown-in insulation (also called blown-in batt), composed of loose insulating fibers such as fiberglass, foam, orcellulose, is one especially effective method. While rolled or batt insulationmight leave voids through which air can pass, blown-in types tend to fill all crevices, making it a more energy-efficient choice. Blown-in insulation is generally installed by a professional.

Blue Angel:  Originating from Germany, Blue Angel is a label for products and services that are environmentally friendly. Its goal is to inform consumers about environmentally friendly products, assessing the product from manufacture, disposal as well as product use.

Borate This mineral is a salt of boric acid. Borate is often added to cellulose, cotton, and other natural insulation materials, as well as some wood products, to repel insects, mold, and mildew; in insulation, it also acts as a fire retardant. The additive is considered safe, unlike some more toxic treatments, and does not impact air quality. However, Borate-treated wood is water-soluble and therefore is not an ideal choice for buildings exposed to a lot of moisture, although several companies are making strides to improve the product.

Brownfield It’s more than just a bad view. Ever wonder why that old factory site or gas station was never redeveloped, but instead left to look sad, overgrown, and forgotten? That’s an example of a brownfield-essentially, any property that has previously been developed and now bears the stigma (deserved or otherwise) of being contaminated. There may or may not be hazardous materials present in brownfield land; in any case, developers tend to shy away from these properties, in favor of more pristine, never-developed “greenfields”-mostly out of fear of liability. There is no official count, but it is estimated that there are anywhere from 400,000 to over a million brownfields within the United States. There is a movement afoot to responsibly redevelop these abandoned lands to improve the social, economic, and environmental status of communities.

Breathwork: Breathwork is a general term for a variety of techniques that use patterned breathing to promote physical, mental, and/or spiritual well-being. Some techniques use the breath in a calm, peaceful way to induce relaxation or manage pain, while others use stronger breathing to stimulate emotions and emotional release.

Building Envelope–Building elements (e.g., walls, roofs, floors, windows, etc.) that enclose conditioned (heated and cooled) spaces and through which energy may be transferred to and from the outdoors.

Building Science: Study of how all systems of a structure function together to optimize building performance and prevent building failure. This includes the detailed analysis of building materials and building envelope systems.

Cadmium This is one of many toxic that exist naturally in the Earth’s crust. Industrially, cadmium is primarily used in batteries; it is also an ingredient in some pigments and a stabilizer in plastics. Cadmium released as industrial waste can make its way to humans, who can be exposed to it in several ways, for instance by eating fish from contaminated waters or plants from contaminated soil, or by breathing air that contains cadmium dust. Like mostheavy metals, cadmium is not easily processed by the body; it canbioaccumulate to toxic levels over time. Ordinary, daily exposure to cadmium is not thought to be harmful, but high levels of exposure can lead to reproductive problems, organ damage, and even cancer

Carbon: A chemical element that is found in all plants and animals. Carbon is found in fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas. When fossil fuels are burned the carbon is released into the air and can join with oxygen to make carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

Carbon Emissions: Emissions to the atmosphere principally from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. Increased atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases trap more of the earth’s heat leading to the phenomenon known as global warming

Carbon Footprint: The total amount of greenhouse gases produced directly and indirectly to support human activities. In other words, when you drive a car, heat your house or fly in an airplane, you create a certain amount of carbon dioxide. Your carbon footprint is the sum of all emissions of carbon dioxide, which were created by your activities.

Carbon Fund: 

Carbon Market– How much does it cost to pollute? Very often, it doesn’t cost a dime. The principle of a carbon market is that it should: If companies or countries had to pay for the right to pollute, the thinking goes, they’d do less polluting. A carbon market functions much like any financial market, in which carbon shares (sometimes called pollution credits), representing the right to emit carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases, are bought and sold. The market works in conjunction with a cap on allowable emissions; within the market, polluters that are below the cap can sell the “excess” emissions rights as credits, or shares, to others who are above the limit. One goal is to create a scarcity of shares, driving up the cost of emitting chemicals into the atmosphere through conventional, fossil-fuel-powered means, and encouraging further reduction and investment in alternative fuel sources. Experts disagree on how well this works in actual practice.

Carbon Neutral: Being carbon neutral involves calculating your total climate-damaging carbon emissions, reducing them where possible, and then balancing your remaining emissions, often by purchasing a carbon offset.

Carbon Offset  new method by which carbon emissions produced by one process or practice can be offset by reducing carbon emissions produced by another process or practice.

Carbon Rationing– limiting the amount of carbon you use each year. Carbon rationing action groups (crags) help you reduce your carbon footprint.

Carbon Sink-carbon dioxide is naturally absorbed by things such as oceans, forests and peat bogs. These are called carbon sinks

Carbon Tax – A charge on fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) based on their carbon content. When burned, the carbon in these fuels becomes carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a significant greenhouse gas.

Carpet Backing his is something you might be tempted to sweep under the rug. Carpet backing, which holds carpet tufts together, giving them support and structure, is commonly made of polypropylene or another synthetic, petroleum-basedplastic (an environmental burden from production to disposal), and bonded with styrene butadiene (SB) latex adhesive, which is bad news for indoor air quality. These components of carpet backing can offgas volatile organiccompounds (VOCs)-that’s what’s commonly referred to as “new carpet smell.” Alternatives to these conventional products include carpet backing made with recycled materials, or jute, which is natural and renewable, although less durable and harder to find.

Newer carpets, as a rule, emit far lower levels of VOCs than older ones, but some are better than others; when shopping, check to see if the product you’re considering meets the requirements of the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label-which indicates that it has been tested and identified as low-VOC. Carpet backing (and often the carpet material itself) also typically takes up great amounts of landfill space at the end of its useful life. Fortunately, more and more options for its recycling and reuse are becoming available. If you’ve got carpet that has to go, check out for details about responsible disposal in your area.

Cellulose– Cellulose is a natural polymer that is the basic component of plant fibers, including wood fibers. In homes, cellulose usually refers to a type ofinsulation that is made from wood fibers-most often, from recycled newspaper. It’s a terrific development from an environmental standpoint, since it diverts a huge amount of newspaper from the waste stream, and because it’s a highly effective insulator. Cellulose insulation is typically blown or packed into walls and other spaces, filling crevices and blocking heat transfer better than fiberglass and other batt insulation can. It is often treated with borate, a natural, safe mineral that repels pests and is fire retardant.

Certified: Acknowledging that a product is genuine to what it claims, typically having gone through a process similar to obtaining a license.

Certified Wood: Wood used in building that is supplied from sources that comply iwht sustainable forestry practices

Chain of Custody: The term, “chain of custody,” refers to tracking the custodianship of wood and wood products along the supply chain from harvest to distribution of the final product. The purpose of a chain of custody system is to ensure that certified and other forest products originated in a responsibly managed forest. Special recordkeeping requirements relating to the purchase, shipment and delivery of products must be maintained.

CHP: stands for Combined Heat & Power. Rather than drawing energy from the grid, CHP is the use of a heat engine or power station which can simultaneously generate both heat & electricity on site. Many paper mills use CHP units; they are beneficial due to the fact that they have lower emissions to air than power stations.

Chinese (Oriental) Medicine: Oriental medical practitioners are trained to use a variety of ancient and modern therapeutic methods– including acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, moxibustion (heat therapy), and nutritional and lifestyle counseling–to treat a broad range of both chronic and acute illnesses.

Chiropractic: The chiropractic system is based on the premise that the spine is literally the backbone of human health: Misalignments of the vertebrae caused by poor posture or trauma result in pressure on the spinal cord, which may lead to diminished function and illness. The chiropractor seeks to analyze and correct these misalignments through spinal manipulation or adjustment.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs): Stable, artificially created chemical compounds containing carbon, chlorine, fluorine and sometimes hydrogen. Chlorofluorocarbons, used primarily to facilitate cooling in refrigerators and air conditioners, have been found to deplete the stratospheric ozone layer which protects the earth and its inhabitants form excessive ultraviolet radiation.

Circulating Fluidized Bed Combustion Technology (CFB):A type of furnace or reactor in which the emission of sulfur compounds is lowered by the addition of crushed limestone in the fluidized bed, thus obviating the need for much of the expensive stack gas clean-up equipment. The particles are collected and recirculated, after passing through a conventional bed, and cooled by boiler internals. CFB technology is recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy as a clean-coal technology. CFB technology has strong environmental performance, and a record of dependable, cost-effective service. CFB boilers are very flexible and can utilize a wide range of fuels, including run of mine coal, waste coal and biomass. Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable EnergyClean Power Generator: A company or other organizational unit that produces electricity from sources that are thought to be environmentally cleaner than traditional sources. Clean, or green, power is usually defined as power from renewable energy that comes from wind, solar, biomass energy, etc. There are various definitions of clean resources. Some definitions include power produced from waste-to-energy and wood-fired plants that may still produce significant air emissions. Some states have defined certain local resources as clean that other states would not consider clean. For example, the state of Texas has defined power from efficient natural gas-fired power plants as clean. Some northwest states include power from large hydropower projects as clean although these projects damage fish populations. Various states have disclosure and labeling requirement for generation source and air emissions that assist customers in comparing electricity characteristics other than price. This allows customers to decide for themselves what they consider to be “clean.” The federal government is also exploring this issue. Source: U.S. Department of Energy / Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable EnergyClear Cutting The problem with clearcutting is pretty clear-cut. This forestry technique, which is commonly defined as cutting all the trees with commercial value in a given area at once, has caused tremendous damage-destroying ecosystems, leaving behind massive waste, and causing erosion. There are more sustainable ways to harvest wood and the nonprofit Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) works with industries and consumers to encourage and certify logging practices that pose less of a threat to the world’s rainforests.

Climate Change: (Global Warming)

Close the Loop: The practice of purchasing items derived from the diverted material from the waste stream (recycling)

Composting: a process whereby organic wastes, including food and paper, decompose naturally, resulting in a produce rich in minerals and ideal for gardening and farming as a soil conditioner,mulch, resurfacing material, or landfill cover

Composting Toilet OK, joke all you want about this. The toilet has a rep that puts it almost on par with an outhouse. On a commune. Decorated with love beads. But really, it’s not that far out. This type of toilet, which uses no water or very little, really does work. Noseplugs not required. Rather than being flushed, the waste is collected in an enclosed container and composted-transformed, gradually, into a safe, nutrient-rich humus material that can be used as a soil amendment in the garden. A typical American family using a composting toilet can potentially save more than 3,000 gallons per year.

The composting toilet’s job is facilitated by air vents and in some cases, heaters to maintain the ideal temperature. Food scraps and other organichousehold waste can be composted in the toilet as well. A good choice for locations where sewage systems are not available, these toilets are not looked on favorably (or even allowed, in many cases) in many communities that have working sewage systems, however, since their improper maintenance or usage could pose health risks. This could change with greater awareness and education over time. Plenty of people hold their noses at the notion of a flush-free life, but composting toilets aren’t difficult to use, and if well maintained can be very sanitary and even odor-free.

Contaminant: Any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substance or matter that has an adverse effect on air, water or soil.
Contamination: – Introduction to water, air and soil micro organisms, chemicals, toxic substances, wastes or wastewater in a concentration that makes the medium unfit for its next intended use.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA:) CSA is a direct connection between the growing community and the consumer. It entails a weekly delivery of seasonally grown vegetables, fruit, flowers, herbs, eggs and milk. (Depending on your area) 

Conflict-Free DiamondsConflict-free diamonds are high quality natural diamonds guaranteed not to be obtained through the use of violence, human rights abuses, child labor, or environmental destruction. These beauties are individually tracked through their full chain of custody to ensure that ethical practices are used in mining, cutting, and polishing. For now, most conflict free diamonds are Canadian in origin. How will you know it’s truly conflict free? Check for certification, any well established, reputable jeweler should be able to tell you the diamonds history. Also get validation from an independent auditing system like the Canadian Diamond Code of Conduct, Canadamark, or the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Construction Waste Management Plan (CWMP) : A plan that diverts construction debris from landfills through conscientious plans to recycle, salvage, and reuse. For best results, this type of plan should also eliminate packaging of materials when possible and be carefully monitored or audited by the contractor.

Conservation: The practice of resource management that seeks to balance the resource’s consumption or utilization between natural and human needs.

Cool/Heating Load– This HVAC industry term refers to the amount of energy it takes to reach and maintain a desired temperature in a building during the cooling or heating season. It’s measured in Btus-British thermal units.

Cool Roof- Wearing white on a hot summer day makes sense for you, and it does for your roof as well. A cool roof is a reflective one-a white or light-colored surface off of which sunlight will bounce-as opposed to a dark surface that absorbs the heat like a cast-iron skillet. The roofing material on a cool roof should also have a high emissivity, which means it easily releases heat. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), installing a cool roof can lower a rooftop surface temperature by as much as 100 degrees on a hot day, and can make as much as a 15 percent difference in your air-conditioning bill.

Co-op: Short for Co-operative. Worker cooperatives are owned and democratically controlled by its workers. Since the co-op is worker-owned and membership is not compulsory, this type of manufacturing set-up avoids exploitation of its workers.

Co-op America:A non-profit consumer organization that promotes a socially and economically just society by harnessing the economic power of consumers, investors, and businesses.

Cork Flooring This durable, comfy-under-bare-feet flooring material is definitely worth celebrating. It’s sustainable, made from the bark of the fast-growing cork oak (Quercus suber) tree-the same bark that corks your wine and champagne bottles and displays your thumbtacked memos. Harvested without damaging the tree it grows on, the bark is regenerated in about ten years’ time. Because of its natural, honeycomb-like cellular structure, cork has a soft and cushiony feel and is a good insulator. It also absorbs sound, and is resistant to moisture, mold, and rot.

Never seen a cork oak tree? They’re native to the Mediterranean region, and Portugal is the largest producer. After careful harvest by hand, the cork is first used to make wine stoppers; the material that remains is ground, mixed with binders, and molded into blocks which are then cut into tiles for flooring-thus, there is almost no waste at all in the production process. Natural cork flooring has much to recommend it, but be aware that cork-vinyl composite floor tiles are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It’s worth noting that in recent years, despite the increased interest in cork flooring, the cork industry has actually been in decline, due to the development and aggressive marketing of alternative wine stoppers: plastic “corks” and screw tops. Wine stoppers represent about 70 percent of total cork profits, so this development is a real threat to the entire industry. Cork-industry representatives are working to reverse this trend, and to promote cork as the only sustainable, responsible choice for stopping wine bottles-not to mention the nostalgic favorite

Cottage Industry: An industry in which the creation and services of products is home based and not factory based. The products produced are often independent, and one of a kind and not mass produced.

Cork: Cork isn’t just for wine bottles anymore. Probably the most popular use of cork now is flooring because it provides natural thermal insulation, thus helping to lower energy consumption, and it also has the natural ability to absorb sound and shock. It is a type of flooring that suits most allergy sufferers and is very durable despite its rubbery feel. Did you know there is actually a Cork Oak tree? Well, there is and it’s a pretty cool tree that is responsible for all those wine corks and cork flooring. Cork is harvested by peeling away the bark from the trunk and branches every 9-12 years and does not necessitate the felling of the tree. And, Cork Oak trees do not die when their bark is removed like most trees.

Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE): Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) is a way to measure the fuel economy of specific manufacturers’ vehicles. It is expressed in miles per gallon (mpg) for a manufacturer’s entire fleet of cars and light trucks. Source: National Housing, Transportation and Safety Administration

Corporate Social Responsible (CSR) A concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, communities and the environment in all aspects of their operations.

Corrugated Cardboard :Arches are supportive. Arches with proper curves are unstoppably supportive. The inventors of corrugated fiberboard brilliantly applied this principle to paper and the result is a material that is durable, functional and light. Ninety percent of corrugated cardboard is made from a mixture of recycled corrugated boxes, corrugated cuttings, recycled paper, old cartons, along with woodchips, shavings, and sawdust left over from logging and sawmilling operations.

Cradle to Cradle: Method in which all componets and products are designed to be reused or reabsorbed back into the environment through decompoistion. All processes insure that products will have no negative environmental impacts thoughout it’s life.

Cross Ventilation air that flows from one side of a room or building to another, between open windows or vents. It’s a natural, passive cooling method. And there’s no installation to worry about; it’s a total breeze.

Cruelty Free/Not Tested on AnimalsConsumers should be aware of labels which read “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals” as that is not always what they mean. There is actually no government agency that defines these terms, nor are there standards set for their usage or any kind of regulation for that matter. Makes you angry, doesn’t it?! Instead, it is left up to each company to determine what its label means. So when you see these phrases on the packaging of a product you might want to try, don’t buy it at face value. Make sure you’re choosing products from companies you feel are acting the most responsible in their entire approach to safety testing.

Composting: The process of turning food and other waste into soil.

DaylightingThe use of controlled natural lighting methods indoors through skylights, windows, and reflected light.

Decompose: To rot or decay; to break down into simpler parts or elements.

Deforestation: The complete destruction and total clearing of all forests within a region.DeConstruction A building that has outlived its usefulness doesn’t have to face demolition-a process that destroys every bit of the structure, even those components that still have value. By deconstructing, or gradually dismantling instead, it’s possible to salvage those valuable materials for reuse-thus eliminating waste and lightening the burden on new resources. With deconstruction, many components can be reused: floorboards, framing lumber, stone and brick, and finish material such as moldings and doors are among them. Many materials that can’t be reused can be salvaged for recycling; an old cement foundation, for instance, can be recycled into aggregateDemand Hot Water Also called tankless water heater or instantaneous water heater. Hot water when you need it, without wasted energy. That’s the promise of this system, also called a demand water heater, which heats water only when it is called for. Depending on usage, this style can be anywhere from eight to 50 percent more efficient that the conventional, storage water heater, which keeps a tank of water heated constantly and leads to standby heat loss. The downside can be limited output, so if your household is large, someone may end up with a cold shower. Installing multiple heaters can solve this problem.

Dioxins – A chemical compound that has been link to the production of PVC and paper manufacturing. link to cancer and hormone disruption. Dioxins are released during the production of PVC and some papers, though both the plastic and paper industry have had implemented major reductions to the release of dioxins in recent years.

DIP – De-inked pulp. Post consumer recycling process where the carbon and ink are removed from the paper pulp.

Disassembly  Disassembly embraces the idea that the whole is not necessarily greater than the sum of its parts. A product that can be easily disassembled can be easily repaired-just take off the damaged part, fix it or replace it, and pop it back on-so it’s less likely to be thrown away for something entirely new. When it’s outlived its use, it can be taken apart-smaller pieces are easier to transport and recycle. Disassembly is an important element of sustainable product design, because it reduces waste and limits unnecessary consumption.

DIY: Do-It-Yourself. Creating things yourself without the help of professionals. A mentality that often goes hand-in-hand with recycling and conserving resources.

Down Cycling Think of a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy. With every successive copy, the quality deteriorates. That is essentially what happens when some products-plastics, for instance-are recycled: the process “downcycles” them into an inferior new material. And because it degrades every time, that material will eventually become waste, even though you’ve tried mightily to keep it out of a landfill by recycling. A plastic soda bottle, for instance, cannot be recycled to make another soda bottle; instead, the lower quality plastic that results is suitable for only limited purposes, including plastic lumber, carpet padding, and fleece jackets (and those resulting products are rarely, if ever, recycled themselves). By contrast, an aluminum can is infinitely recyclable, and can be used to make new aluminum cans over and over again.

Drip Irrigation Sure, sprinklers are a lot of fun on a hot day. But if you want to conserve water while giving plants the drink they need, this style of irrigation is the way to go. Effective for both commercial use and home gardens, drip irrigation involves using tubing at ground level to deliver low-pressure water directly to the soil where it’s needed-think of a hose with holes poked all over it. The technique reduces waste and runoff, and can maintain an optimal moisture balance for healthy plant growth. Because waste is limited (drip irrigation can be more than 90 percent efficient, while sprinkler watering systems are around 65 percent), these systems are sometimes exempt from water restrictions during periods of drought.

Drywall If your home was built in the last 50 years or so, you’re probably surrounded by the stuff. Give it a knock and you’ll hear that familiar echo. Drywall is the most commonly used interior wall finish material today-having usurped those thick, plaster and lath walls that were ubiquitous until World War II. Also called gypsum board or sheet rock, it is made of paper-typically recycled, unbleached paper-over a core of gypsum, a mineral compound. Drywall made with either recycled or synthetic gypsum is a greener choice than that made with new, mined gypsum; synthetic gypsum is made from a coal-combustion waste product, so it reduces waste, saves energy, and averts the environmental damage caused by mining

Durability: Related to the quality of an item, durability indicated how well a product stands up after a sustained period of use.

ECF – Elemental Chlorine Free pulp. Pulp bleached without the use of any elemental chlorine. Though chlorine compounds, like chlorine dioxide, may be used in the bleaching process.

Eco Assessment: an evaluation of your home or workplace with the aim of cutting your energy and water usage.

Eco Bag: a ethically, organically made bag to use instead of plastic carrier bags.

Eco Bus: a bus which uses a combination of diesel and electric power

Eco-chic: A product or good that is both eco-friendly and hip.

Ecology: The study of the interrelationships between living organisms and their environment.

Ecologist: A scientist who studies the interrelationships of living things to one another and their environment.

Ecube-a wax cube which mimics food in a fridge to save it energy. More info on ecubes here.

Ecosystem: A group of living organisms that, along with their abiotic environment (e.g. air, water, rocks), interact with each other over a period of time. Energy from the sun is used to feed this web of lif

Eco Anxiety A new term used to define those who are worried sick over various environmental doomsday scenarios

Eco Friendly Generally practices or products that have a small impact on the earth’s resources.

Earth Friendly Generally practices or products that have a small impact on the earth’s resources.

Ecocert Ecocert is an inspection and certification body accredtied to verify the conformity of organic products against the regulations of Europe, Japan and the United States. It covers organic and natural cosmetics worldwide, performing and inspecting in over 80 countries outside the EU on all continents. The number and variety of certified operations is rapidly growing and includes farms, processing and importing/exporting/trading operations.

Eco Conscious: Being an informed purchaser. Knowing or having an understanding of what effect what you are doing, buying or using has on the environment.

Eco-Driving: Driving in a more careful and environmentally responsible way that results in safe driving, a decrease of exhaust emissions, and fuel savings.Ecological Footprint: Measures human impact upon the environment – how much space or productive land is needed to support an individual’s lifestyle. The larger the footprint the more impact the individual has on the Earth.

eco intelligent® polyester: Considered to be the first technical nutrient — a material that remains in a closed-loop or cradle-to-cradle system of manufacture — developed to ‘feed’ or be returned to these systems without any harmful effects. ingredients are perpetually recycled into the system generating a product of equal or greater value, eliminating the concept of waste altogether. eco intelligent polyester is free of PBTs — chemicals that are persistent (do not biodegrade), bioaccumulative (accumulate in body tissue) or toxic — and all dyestuffs have been approved for health and safety to humans and the environment. it is produced without antimony, instead using environmentally safe titanium. additionally eco intelligent polyester is produced using hydroelectric power, a renewable energy.

Eco-Spun: High-quality polyester fiber which is made from 100% certified recycled PET (soda/pop) bottles, that is capable of keeping about three billion plastic PET bottles out of the world’s landfills each year, saving over half a million barrels of oil and eliminating 400,000 tons of harmful emissions which contribute to global warming, acid rain, smog, etc.. In fact, the amount of petroleum saved annually by using post-consumer bottles instead of virgin materials is enough to supply power to a city the size of Atlanta! Eco-Spun can be found is many textile products, including eco friendly clothing, blankets, wall coverings, carpets, auto interiors and various home furnishings. It takes 6-20 bottles to make a sweatshirt, depending upon the weight, size and blend of the garment.

Eco TourismTravel that entails destinations where natural and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Typically including environmental awareness aspects of the locale.

Efficacy:The amount of energy service or useful energy delivered per unit of energy input. Often used in reference to lighting systems, where the visible light output of a luminary is relative to power input; expressed in lumens per Watt; the higher the efficacy value, the higher the energy efficiency. Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable EnergyEfficiency:Under the First Law of Thermodynamics, efficiency is the ratio of work or energy output to work or energy input, and cannot exceed 100 percent. Efficiency under the Second Law of Thermodynamics is determined by the ratio of the theoretical minimum energy that is required to accomplish a task relative to the energy actually consumed to accomplish the task. Generally, the measured efficiency of a device, as defined by the First Law, will be higher than that defined by the Second Law. Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable EnergyEmissions Inventory: A list of air pollutants emitted into a community’s, state’s, nation’s, or the Earth’s atmosphere in amounts per some unit time (e.g., day or year) by type of source. An emission inventory has both political and scientific applications. Source: Natsource

EMS (Environmental Management System) An internal system for handling environmental issues within a company. It sets requirements for how activities impacting the environment shall be accounted for and documented. The existing standardisation systems in Europe are ISO 14001 and EMAS.

Embodied Energy: All the energy used to grow, extract and manufacture a products, including transportation costs

Emissions: Emissions are particles and gases released into the air as byproducts. There are many types of emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions, for example, contribute to global warming and is not sustainable to the health of the earth.

Emission cap: a limit placed on companies regarding the amount of greenhouse gases it can emit.

Endangered: Describes a species threatened with immediate extinction throughout all or most of its range owing to the actions of people.

Energy Audit:The process of determining energy consumption, by various techniques, of a building or facility. Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Energy Efficient: Products and systems that use less energy to perform as well or better than standard products. While energy-efficient products sometimes have higher up-front costs, they tend to cost less over their lifetime when the cost of energy consumed is factored in. An example of this is fluorescent light bulbs vs. incandescent bulbs.

Energy Performance Contracts: Energy performance contracts are generally financing or operating leases provided by an Energy Service Company (ESCo) or equipment manufacturer for energy-saving installations. What distinguishes these contracts is that they provide a guarantee on energy savings from the installed retrofit measures, and they usually also offer a range of associated design, installation, and maintenance services. Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable EnergyEnergy Performance Ratings:You can use the energy performance ratings of windows, doors, and skylights to tell you their potential for gaining and losing heat, as well as transmitting sunlight into your home.Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Energy Saving grant – money awarded to you to help improve the efficiency of your home and use less energy. See how you could get an energy saving grant.

Energy Saving lightbulbs – lightbulbs which use far less energy than conventional bulbs.

Energy Services Company:A company that offers to reduce a client’s utility costs, often with the cost savings being split with the client through an energy performance contract (EPC) or a shared-savings agreement Source: Think Energy

ENERGY STARAn energy-efficiency rating system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency. A high Energy Star rating means that the product is designed to minimize its energy consumption.

Engineered Wood– The Lorax, the creature dreamed up by Dr. Seuss to speak for the trees, might be somewhat heartened by the development of this material. It is lumber that is made from wood fibers, reconstituted and bound with adhesive. It is useful in construction as it is strong and of consistent quality, and it requires about 50 percent of the wood in traditional, solid-wood lumber. The wood fibers used generally come from young, fast-growing timber trees-good news for the old growth trees that are saved from cutting as a result. Look for products that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and that use formaldehyde-free binders-since formaldehyde can offgas and lead to indoor air quality concerns-or, failing that, choose one that was made with the safer phenol formaldehyde rather than urea formaldehyde.

Environmentally Friendly: Generally practices or products that have a small impact on the earth’s resources.

Environmentally Preferable – products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on the environment.

Environmental Cost: An economic method derived to quantify the human or other secondary or tertiary costs not typically borne by a single producer.

Environmental Protection Agency :The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and the environment. Since 1970, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people. View the Agency’s complete strategic plan, annual report, and policy resources.

Environmental Footprint – For an industrial setting this is a company’s environmental impact determined by the amount of depletable raw materials and non-renewable resources it consumes to make its products and the quantity of wastes and emissions that are generated in the process.

Environmental Impact– Any change to the environment whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from human activity, industry or natural disasters.

Environmental Justice This term might bring to mind a super hero-“eco-man”-clad in green tights and traveling the world (by sustainable means, of course) to mete out justice wherever environmental offenses are committed. The reality is that this guy isn’t around when we need him. Environmental justice is based on the principle that environmental laws and protections should extend to all people, regardless of race, culture, or income level. Unfortunately, the negative health implications of environmental damage and pollution often hit poor and minority populations the hardest: Hazardous waste landfills, for example, are likely to be located near disadvantaged communities. To try to mitigate the problem, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the Office of Environmental Justice in 1992, which helps to educate the public and ensure that the agency integrates environmental justice into its policies and practices. See also environmental racism.

Environmental Racism Racial discrimination takes many insidious forms. This term refers to a situation in which industrial operations, environmental policymaking, and the enforcement (or lack of enforcement) of environmental laws unfairly impact a particular race of people, either intentionally or unintentionally. Examples include the locating of hazardous waste landfills in minority communities, and the exclusion of minorities in environmental policymaking leadership.See also, environmental justice.

Ethanol (CH3-CH2OH): A clear, colorless, flammable oxygenated hydrocarbon. Ethanol is typically produced chemically from ethylene, or biologically from fermentation of various sugars from carbohydrates found in agricultural crops and cellulosic residues from crops or wood. It is used in the United States as a gasoline octane enhancer and oxygenate (blended up to 10 percent concentration). Ethanol can also be used in high concentrations (E85) in vehicles designed for its use. Source: Energy Information Administration

EU – Eco label Awarded to products with a reduced environmental impact compared with other products in the same product group. Recognisable by its distinctive flower logo.

Evaporative Cooling What happens when you perspire on a hot day? The sweat evaporates, using heat from your body in the process, resulting in a cooler you. Thispassive cooling system works by the same basic principle: Water is evaporated into hot, dry air, causing the air’s temperature to drop. A fan is employed to distribute the cool, moistened air around a room or building. Evaporative cooling systems, sometimes called swamp coolers, are very effective in arid climates, and can use as much as 75 percent less energy than standard air conditioners. They are less effective as humidity rises.

E-Waste This term doesn’t refer to all the spam filling your email box, though those messages do waste plenty of time. E-waste is actually the millions of tons of electronic products, computers, cell phones, and the like that enter the waste stream worldwide each year. As newer, better, cooler gadgets come on the market, the piles of e-waste grow ever higher. Aside from their contribution to landfills, many electronic devices contain hazardous materials, such as mercury; many also contain valuable, reusable materials that can be recycled. There are some simple ways to limit e-waste: Buy quality products that can be upgraded instead of replaced; donate old equipment (to a school for instance); and seek out recycling programs when you’re ready to dispose of an item. Also called electronic waste.

Fair Trade: Began in Europe in 1980’s as a way for direct suppliers and consumers.

Fasting/Natural Hygiene: Natural Hygiene is a health system that seeks to remove the causes of disease and encourage the body’s self- healing capacity through natural-food diets and therapeutic fasting. Professional Natural Hygienists are primary care doctors (m.d.s, osteopaths, chiropractors, and naturopaths) who specialize in fasting supervision as a part of natural hygienic care. Natural Hygiene is employed for a wide variety of acute and chronic conditions.

Feng ShuiHave you ever heard the phrase, “Be one with nature?” Well, Feng Shui (literally “wind water”) is kind of like that. It is based on the ancient Chinese practice of placement and arrangement of space to achieve harmony with the environment. Proponents claim that Feng Shui has an effect on health, wealth and personal relationships.

Fiber Cement Siding Looking for a siding material that looks like wood but is resistant to fire, rot, and insects? This might be the one. Made of a mixture of Portland cement, sand, water, and wood fiber (cellulose), it is shaped into planks or panels that are versatile, durable, and take paint well. Fiber-cement siding has been around for about 100 years; the product used to contain asbestos, but modern versions are made with cellulose instead. Fiber-cement can also be useful in other applications-underlaying a floor in a moist environment such as a kitchen or bath, for instance.

How eco-friendly is it? This material’s durability makes it green-it shouldn’t require replacement for a very long time. The source of the wood fiber is a potential concern, however, as not all manufacturers use wood from well-managed forests.

Fiber Glass Many of us think of it as that pink, cotton-candy-like stuff that lines the attic. Fiberglass is the trade name for a product made of spun molten glass; it’s used in insulation of course, but also some reinforced plastics, roofing materials, and textiles. It’s sometimes called glass wool or fibrous glass. Care is required when installing it: Exposure to airborne fibers (which can occur when cutting, moving, or otherwise working with a material that contains fiberglass) can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, or lungs. These fibers are considered a possible carcinogen, but the link has not been proven.

Fiber Reactive Dye Ever had a red sock turn all your white shirts pink in the wash? That’s one of the troubles of conventional dyes-they tend to bleed. Fiber-reactive dyes, however, bond chemically to fibers for exceptional colorfastness. Of course, for the environmentally conscious, the real problem with conventional dyes has nothing to do with socks, but rather water contamination. Large quantities of dyes, most of which are petroleum-based, are used in commercial textile facilities, and a great deal of those dyes run off and end up in the water supply. Fiber-reactive dyes are sometimes referred to as low impact dyes because the dying process uses less water and therefore generates much less wastewater runoff and contamination. Most of these dyes are still made with petroleum-based chemicals, however, so are not entirely virtuous. Also called low impact dye.

Flat-pack: Refers to furniture that is designed to pack flat, thereby reducing shipping costs and fuel used in transportation. Flat-pak designs are ready to assemble by the customer, right out of the box.

Flower Essences: Popularized in the ’30s by Edward Bach, M.D., flower essences are intended to alleviate negative emotional states that may contribute to illness or hinder personal growth. Drops of a solution infused with the captured “essence” of a flower are placed under the tongue or in a beverage. The practitioner helps the client choose appropriate essences, focusing on the client’s emotional state rather than on a particular physical condition.

FTF: Fair Trade Federation. And association of fair trade wholesalers, retailers and producers that adhere to social criteria and environmental principles that foster a more equitable and sustainable system of production and trade.

Formaldehyde: Common ingredient in glues, cabinetry, binders, particle boards. Formaldehyde is classified as a probable human carcinogen.

Fossil Fuel: Used to define a wide range of fuels derived from geologic extraction. Oil, Coal, Oil Shale, Natural Gas, etc.

FSC– Forest Stewardship Council: International organization to pormote responsible management of the worlds forests. They have developed standards and Certification systems that are recognized globally.

Fuel cell – a technology that uses an electrochemical process to convert energy into electrical power. Often powered by natural gas, fuel cell power is cleaner than grid-connected power sources. In addition, hot water is produced as a by-product.

Garbagialand– A landscape organically modified by the use of waste of any kind

Geothermal energy – heat that comes from the earth.

Glass recycling – Glass bottles and jars can be recycled endlessly. That means that unlike some other recycled products, a recycled bottle can be recycled into another glass bottle. And another, and so on forever. Find out more about the endless cycle of glass.

Global Warming:Refers to the increase in average temperatures the earth has experienced since the mid-twentieth century.

Going Green: A phrase referring to individual action that a person can consciously take to curb harmful effects on the environment through consumer habits, behavior, and lifestyle.

Graywater – see Greywater.

Green design – a design, usually architectural, conforming to environmentally sound principles of building, material and energy use. A green building, for example, might make use of solar panels, skylights, and recycled building materials.

Green fatigue – becoming tired with some of the constant messages of corporate green credentials and tales of impending global doom. easily overcome, see our green fatigue article

Greenhouse Gas: Any of a host of gases that when allowed to enter the atmosphere have extended breakdown periods and potentially change the way sunlight reaches the earth

Greenhouse Effect: The warming of earth’s atmosphere as a result of atmospheric pollution by gases. It is now feared that the warming effects are being undesirably increased by humans, causing climate changes and melting polar icecaps.

Green Building: Whole building integrated design and construction approach that optimizes materials, water, energy to improve indoor and outdoor environmental quality.

Green Design: A term used in the building, furnishings, and product industries to indicate design sensitive to environmentaly-friendly, ecological issues.

Green Roof: Growing plants on the roof

Green Technology Initiative – a consortium of companies pioneering green computing with the aim of helping to educate and inspire British businesses to become more energy efficient and environmentally responsible with their IT infrastructure. Read more about the Green Technology Initiative..

Greentini: A Green Martini

  • 2 ounces 360 vodka
  • 1.5 ounces melon liqueur
  • Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass
  • Garnish with a lime wedge

GreenWashing : Marketing or representation of product attributes or qualities which misinform or mislead a consumer about a product or company’s environmental practices or products.

Green wedding – holding your wedding with the least environmental impact possible. See our ethical weddings article.

Greenhouse effect – explains global warming. It’s the process that raises the temperature of air in the lower atmosphere due to heat trapped by greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone.

Greywater – waste water that does not contain sewage or fecal contamination (such as from the shower) and can be reused for irrigation after filtration. Read more about greywater here.

GMO: Genetically modified organisms have had genes from other species transfered into their own genetic material by gene splicing.

Halogen Light Bulb As incandescent light bulbs go, this one is hot. By that we mean that is gets extremely hot while in use-so be careful not to touch. It uses halogen gas and a recycling process that allows the filament to burn two to three times longer than a standard bulb, so it’s quite a bit more efficient. But the high heat can pose a fire hazard. For even greater efficiency without the residual heat, a compact fluorescent light bulb is a better bet

Handmade: Usually a one of a kind, hand-crafted product that is made without the use of machines and is not mass produced. The cost of handmade goods are often higher than machine-made versions if artisans are paid a fair wage and have pride in their craft.

Hardwood Cherry, maple, oak, elm and other deciduous trees fall into this category of wood. They are slower-growing trees than  conifers such as pine, and are sources of durable, valuable, and undeniably good-looking timber for flooring and furniture. The market for hardwoods has led to damaging forestry practices the world over, but some logging companies harvest more gently; when shopping for hardwood products, look for those certified byForest Stewardship Council (FSC)-a sign that the wood came from a sustainable, well managed forest. Salvaged hardwood (rescued from buildings scheduled for demolition, for example) is another tree-friendly choice.

Haute Green: An annual contemporary design event in New York that showcases sustainable modern design.

Hazardous Chemical Warning-these are chemicals that should be used, and disposed of, with the utmost care. Any chemical in solid, liquid, or gas form is considered hazardous if it is capable of causing physical injury (as through an explosion or fire) or illness. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designates chemicals as hazardous in accordance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. On product labeling, the words “danger,” “warning,” and “caution” will let you know how severe a particular hazard is (danger being the most severe), and images are often used to illustrate its nature (skull and crossbones for poison, for example).

Hazardous Waste This is among the more unpleasant byproducts of households and industrial processes: It’s waste material that can pose a threat to human health or the environment if handled improperly. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), waste is hazardous if it has at least one of four qualities: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity.

Heat Gain There’s nothing worse than a crowded room on a hot day. It isn’t your imagination-human bodies do add heat to a space. So do appliances, electronics equipment, lightbulbs, and sunlight. Heat gain refers to all heat, from all sources, that is introduced to a room or building. Finding ways to cut back on heat gain (have your party outside, serve a cool meal, turn off those computers) is a part of the natural cooling process

Heat Island Effect t’s no wonder so many urbanites flee the cities on summer weekends. It really is hotter in the concrete jungle. Heat island effect refers to the ability of vast paved areas-city streets, rooftops, and sidewalks-to absorb and hold heat, making urban areas and the surrounding suburbs noticeably hotter than rural towns nearby. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the temperature difference can be two to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Not only uncomfortable, this phenomenon leads to greater energy demands, more air pollution, and illness related to heat and air quality.

No beach house? There are things that can be done about this sizzling problem, but most take community cooperation. Some ways to offset the heat island effect include installing vegetated s or reflective, high-emissive cool roofs, and incorporating strategically located parks and trees in city planning.

Heat pump–A mechanical device used for heating and cooling which operates by pumping heat from a cooler to a warmer location. Heat pumps can draw heat from a number of sources, e.g., air, water or earth and are classified as either air source or water source units.

Heat recovery ventilator/exchangers–Exhaust fans that warm the incoming air with the heat from the outgoing air, recovering about 50-70% of the energy.

Heavy Metals Maybe this term makes you think of your music collection back in high school. Environmentally speaking, however, we’re talking about cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, lead, and other naturally occurring metallic elements with high molecular weight, many of which are dangerous pollutants. Many are released into the environment via industrial processes, and bioaccumulate in the systems of fish, wildlife, and livestock, eventually wreaking havoc on human health.

House Wrap Just like that windbreaker you slide into on a chilly day, this protective barrier helps to keep the elements out. Typically a plastic or spun-fiber polyethylenetextile material, the thin film is installed beneath exterior siding on a house or other building during the framing stage; it is breathable, but acts as an air barrier to make the structure more energy efficient. It also blocks rain from soaking the walls, which can lead to mold and rot.

HVACHeating, ventilation and air conditioning system

High Performance Building: A high-performance building is a building with energy, economic and environmental performance that is substantially better than standard practice. It is energy efficient, so it saves money and natural resources. It is a healthy place to live and work for its occupants and has relatively low impact on the environment. All this is achieved through a process called whole-building design. Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Hemp ; Get over the Hemp stigma and come out of the 70’s into modern times. Hemp is a great material for organic clothing. It requires no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides to grow and replenishes the soil with nutrients such as nitrogen. It is also very adept at converting CO2 into oxygen. Hemp also yields about three times more fiber then cotton per acre. The hemp plant has many uses in such things as textiles, beauty and nutritional products. You can even find it in a Mercedes-Benz where it is added to various interior panels. And did you know that the Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper? Yet, for some reason, it’s grown everywhere but the US (wonder why…).

Holistic Medicine: Holistic medicine is a broadly descriptive term for a healing philosophy that views a patient as a whole person, not as just a disease or a collection of symptoms. In the course of treatment, holistic medical practitioners may address a client’s emotional and spiritual dimensions as well as the nutritional, environmental, and lifestyle factors that may contribute to an illness. Many holistic medical practitioners combine conventional forms of treatment (such as medication and surgery) with natural or alternative treatments.

Homeopathy: Homeopathy is a medical system that uses infinitesimal doses of natural substances–called remedies–to stimulate a person’s immune and defense system. A remedy is individually chosen for a sick person based on its capacity to cause, if given in overdose, physical and psychological symptoms similar to those a patient is experiencing. Common conditions homeopathy addresses are infant and childhood diseases, infections, fatigue, allergies, and chronic illnesses such as arthritis

Hypo-cycle down: Natural product consisting of down and feathers that have been sterilized using a 4-cycle wash process to ensure a hypo-allergenic product.

Hybrid: A car that runs on both electric battery and fuel, making the gas mileage extremely efficient and also produces fewer emissions which help control pollution in the environment.

Hypo-allergenic: a term first used in the cosmetic products industry with a claim to produce fewer allergic reactions than other cosmetic products. Consumers with hypersensitive skin, and even those with “normal” skin, may be led to believe that these products will be gentler to their skin than non-hypoallergenic cosmetics. There are no Federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the term “hypoallergenic.” The term means whatever a particular company wants it to mean. Manufacturers labeled as hypoallergenic are not required to submit substantiation of their hypoallergenicity claims to FDA.

Hydroponics: The growing of plants in water containing essential mineral nutrients rather than sold. The growth rate can up to 50x faster and use less water

Hydroelectric energy – electric energy produced by moving water.

Hydrofluorocarbons – used as solvents and cleaners in the semiconductor industry, among others; experts say that they possess global warming potentials that are thousands of times greater than CO2.

Impervious cover–A ground cover that does not allow water to pass through it to the soil below such as blacktop, brick, cobble, or bluestone, increasing stormwater runoff and resulting non-point source pollution.

Incandescent Lamps: Incandescent lamps operate without a ballast. They light up instantly, providing a warm light and excellent color rendition. You can also dim them. Light is emitted when electricity flows through-and heats-a tungsten filament. However, incandescent lamps have a low efficacy compared to other lighting options (10-17 lumens per Watt) and a short average operating life (750-2500 hours). Incandescent lamps are the least expensive to buy, but because of their relative inefficiency and short life spans, they usually are more expensive to operate. Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Indoor Air Quality: Refers to the content of interior air that could affect health and comfort of building occupants. IAQ may be compromised by microbial contaminants (mold, bacteria), chemicals (outgassing from building materials and finishes, carbon monoxide, radon), allergens, or humidity levels that are too high or too low

Industrial Waste The manufacture of nearly everything produces waste, some of it hazardous waste, and some of it merely taking up space and polluting the environment-everything from scrap metal to water tainted with chemicals. In the United States alone, we generate nearly eight billion tons of industrial waste every year; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that 97 percent of that is in wastewaters. Efforts to reduce this number involve diverting materials for reuse and recycling, and creating more efficient manufacturing methods that reduce the waste generated

Ingeo: Ingeo, which is pronounced “in-gee-o” is a relatively new fiber on the market that has begun to catch on. It can be found in such things as pillow, duvets and carpeting to dresses, socks and other clothing items. The name literally means “ingredients from the earth.” It is the first commercially viable man-made fiber which comes from corn and it’s the first natural-based synthetic fiber to meet the performance requirements of traditional petroleum-based fibers; it’s like a natural version of polyester. The environmental benefits include a significant reduction in greenhouse gasses and use of fossil fuels. It’s also biodegradable meaning that the complete life cycle of production, consumption, disposal and reuse if neatly closed.

Integrated design–A process that considers the many disparate parts of a home building project, and examines the interaction between design, construction, and operations to optimize the energy and environmental performance of the home. The strength of this process is that all relevant issues are considered simultaneously in order to solve many problems with one solution.

Integrated Gasification-Combined Cycle Technology: A clean-coal technology that combines coal gasification with combined cycle power generation. Coal, water and oxygen are fed to a gasifier, which produces syngas. This medium-Btu gas is cleaned (particulates and sulfur compounds removed) and is fed to a gas turbine. The hot exhaust of the gas turbine and heat recovered from the gasification process are routed through a heat-recovery generator to produce steam that drives a steam turbine to produce electricity. Source: U.S. Energy Information AdministrationIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1988. Its main objective was to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to the understanding of human-induced climate change, potential impacts of climate change and options for mitigation and adaptation. The IPCC has completed three assessment reports, developed methodology guidelines for national greenhouse gas inventories, special reports and technical papers. Source:Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

IPPC The IPPC is an international treaty to secure action to prevent the spread and introduction of pests of plants and plant products, and to promote appropriate measures for their control. It is governed by the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM) which adopts International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs). The CPM has confirmed the IPP as the preferred forum for national IPPC reporting and the exchange of more general information among the phytosanitary community. The IPPC Secretariat coordinates the activities of the Convention and is provided by the FAO.

ISO 140001Developed by the International Organization Standardization, ISO 14001 are the international standards for organising and improving environmental management systems.

Jute similar in texture to wool. Because of its softness, it shouldn’t be used in high traffic areas. Spun from soft, shiny vegetable fiber that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. Is biodegradable and a renewable resource.

KAPOK-Kapok is made from the natural tree seed fiber of the Cieba tree. The seed pods are harvested by hand and the fiber is separated, cleaned and dried. The resulting fiber is very soft like down, yet extremely resilient and provides excellent comfort and support. As the fiber is harvested from the seed pods of the tree, the tree itself is not harmed in the process. The labor intensive harvesting process supports the indigenous people of the area, and helps prevent the deforestation of tro

Kilowatt-hour (kWh): The amount of energy present in one kilowatt of electricity supplied for one hour of time. Electricity is sold as kilowatt-hours. People pay for electricity by the number of kilowatt-hours used.

Kyoto Protocal A global problem requires a global solution. That was the thinking behind this agreement, reached in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, at the Third Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The protocol calls for specific reductions in greenhouse gasemissions by participating industrial nations by specific target dates (2008-2012). The United States was among the nations that originally signed the protocol but decided in 2001 to pull out rather than ratify the agreement, claiming that to participate would seriously damage the U.S. economy, and criticizing the protocol for not mandating that developing countries (including China and India) also limit their emissions.

Landfill: An enormous pit where trash is buried under shallow layers of dirt.

Latex Paint: Contains a carcinogenic co-polymer

Lead – harmful to the environment used in a lot of paints. It’s also toxic to humans.

LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Assesses the environmental performance of a product or building over its life cycle. Green Seal is a well known non-profit organization that utilizes life-cycle analysis to evaluate and certify products and services that have a lesser impact on the environment and human health.

Light pollution – environmental pollution consisting of the excess of harmful or annoying light.

Linoleum Poor Linoleum. This flooring material hung out with some questionable characters back in the 1970s-like burnt orange and psychedelic tile patterns-and got a bad rep that it can’t quite shake. It’s also been a tragic victim of mistaken identity, confused with vinyl flooring-a synthetic, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) based product. The truth is, Linoleum is not tacky, it’s not plastic, and there are good reasons this smooth, durable product has been used as a floor covering for over 100 years. Linoleum’s primary ingredients-including linseed oil, pine rosin, sawdust, natural pigments, and jute-are natural and renewable. It is also practical and easy to clean, and it can be quite attractive. On the negative side, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in linseed oil offgas and can degrade indoor air quality, although are less than hazardous petroleum-derived VOCs. Overall, this is one dated style worth reviving. Doesn’t everyone deserve a second chance?

LOHAS LOHAS stands for “Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.” Pretty self-explanatory…

Low-emission vehicles – cars etc which emit little pollution compared to conventional engines. Moreeco car news here

Low-emissivity windows–Glazing that has special coatings to permit most of the sun’s light radiation to enter the building, but prevents heat radiation from passing through.

Low Energy/High Performance: Built environments designed to use as little energy as possible and minimal or no fossil fuel

Low flowplumbing fixtures include faucets, toilets and showerheads. Installing low-flow toilets and showerheads, and aerators for faucets is a simple strategy to cut water use.

Low Flush Toilet– A water-saving toilet that still gets the job done. Low-flush toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush-as opposed to older models that took a whopping 3.5-5 gallons for each push of the handle. The U.S. government has mandated that most new models (with the exception of some commercial types) meet this standard since 1992. Unfortunately, there has been some trouble with the effectiveness of these toilets, resulting in a lot of (purpose-defeating) double flushing. Newer models with pressure- or vacuum-assisted flushing systems have been developed to offer better performance. Some offer dual flushing-one flush for solid wastes and a less powerful one for liquids and paper. If you’re toilet shopping, these bells and whistles are worth a look.

Low Impact Development (LID) One of LID’s primary goals is to reduce runoff volume by infiltrating rainfall water to groundwater, evaporating rainwater back to the atmosphere after a storm and finding beneficial uses for water rather than exporting it as a waste product down storm sewers. The result is a landscape functionally equivalent to predevelopment hydrologic conditions, which means less surface runoff and less pollution damage to lakes, streams and coastal waters. Source: Natural Resource Defense Council

Marmoleum Marmoleum” is the new “Linoleum.” It is produced from renewable materials, including linseed oil, rosins, wood flour, jute, limestone and ecologically responsible pigments. The harvesting/extracting of the materials consumes relatively little energy. It is easy to clean, has no adverse health issues, helps to prevent household mites from multiplying (a real plus for allergy sufferers) and has anti-static and anti-bacterial properties.

Massage Therapy: This is a general term for a range of therapeutic approaches with roots in both Eastern and Western cultures. It involves the practice of kneading or otherwise manipulating a person’s muscles and other soft tissue with the intent of improving a person’s well-being or health.

Mastic What good is a powerful heating and cooling system if air can leak in and out around the ducts? This sticky, cement-like product does a terrific job sealing around ducts so these leaks don’t happen, making a building more energy-efficient. Mastic works better than duct tape for this purpose. It can also be used to seal cracks in walls. Water-based, VOC-free mastics are available

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) his sturdy, inexpensive substitute for wood is common in homes, though it’s often hidden behind an attractive exterior. MDF is a composite material, made from wood fibers and adhesive. It is useful as a substrate material beneath laminate countertops, cabinets, and flooring, among other things. Because synthetic, formaldehyde-based resins are typically used in MDF, this material is a major source of formaldehyde offgassing in homes. Formaldehyde-free MDF products are available.

Meditation Teachers/Centers: Meditation is a general term for a wide range of practices that involve training one’s attention or awareness so that body and mind can be brought into greater harmony. While some meditators may seek a mystical sense of oneness with a higher power or with the universe, others may seek to reduce stress or alleviate stress-related ailments such as anxiety and high blood pressure. Listings in this category include individual counselors as well as meditation centers and retreat centers.

Methane (CH4) Can we lay a little blame for global warming on anyone else? Like cows, maybe? Actually, yes. By producing methane-a colorless, odorless, flammable gas, composed of carbon and hydrogen-cattle and other stock animals add to the problem. They create this major greenhouse gas through their digestive processes and exhale it too. Methane is also created by other natural processes, such as the decomposition of organic matter in wetlands. Still, humans are generating the bulk of it-60 percent according to theEnvironmental Protection Agency (EPA)-through activities such as coal mining and landfill accumulation. Since methane is also the primary component of natural gas, used for heating, home cooking, and numerous commercial and industrial applications, scientists are looking into ways of harnessing methane emissions, to keep them out of the atmosphere and redirect them for use as an energy source.

Midwifery/Childbirth Support: Midwives provide education and support during pregnancy, assist the mother during labor and delivery, and provide follow-up care. Practitioners of childbirth support include childbirth educators, childbirth assistants, and doulas (women labor coaches who also provide postpartum home care). In some states midwives can attend home births or practice in birthing clinics in hospitals. Some midwives are also licensed to provide “well-women” gynecological care, including screening tests and birth control. Please keep in mind the mirena complications that have been on the rise, sites like provides a comprehensive list

Multi-functional: Something that serves more than one purpose. In product and furniture design, multi-functional pieces reduce the need for multiple products, thus using less raw resources and reducing clutter in modern homes.

Nano-tex: A treatment where polymers bind to fabric’s fibers at the nano, or sub-micron scale in order to resist spills. this environmentally friendly chemistry (without antimicrobial properties) is recyclable and is designed to meet all environmental, health and safety standards.

National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) Planning a little window shopping? Before you go, you’ll want to know about this group. It has established an accepted, voluntary ratings system within the industry for the energy performance of windows, doors, and skylights. The ratings take into consideration a number of factors, including how well a particular model resists the transfer of heat, how much light it allows to pass through, and how much air leaks around the assembly. The NFRC label on certified products informs the consumer of these ratings.

Natural Food: There is no legal definition as to what constitutes a “natural” food. The USDA defines it as “A product containing no artificial ingredients or added color and only minimally processed” (i.e., does not fundamentally alter the raw product). Be sure to check the label because it must explain what the company means by the use of the term natural (such as no added colorings or artificial ingredients).

Natural Building Uses a range of techniques, building systems and materials that place major emphasis on sustainability. Focus is on durability and the use of locally available, minimally-processed, renewable, recycled or salvaged resources, as well as those which produce healthy living environments and maintain indoor air quality. Natural building tends to rely on human labor, more than technology.

NATURAL LATEX-Natural Latex is produced from the milky white sap of the rubber tree (Hevea Brasiliensis). No harmful chemicals are used in its production, it is biodegradable and has a life expectancy of 20 years or more. It has a superior feel to polyurethane foam and provides unsurpassed resiliency and comfort.

Net Metering:An electricity policy for consumers who own small, renewable energy facilities, such as wind or solar power or use vehicle-to-grid systems. Net refers to what remains after deductions — the deduction of any energy outflows from metered energy inflows. The customer receives retail credit for the excess electricity generated

Non-biodegradable: Incapable of being broken down naturally into substances that will not harm the environment.

Non-renewable resources – Resources that are in limited supply, such as oil, coal, and natural gas. Also see renewable resources.

Offgasing: The release of gases from a material or product into the air. These chemicals including Formaldehyde and VOC’s affect indoor air quality as well as human health.

Offsetting – the process of reducing carbon emissions by ‘offsetting’ it. An example is by taking a flight and in compensation paying a company to plant trees to equal the carbon use out.

Off the Grid: Refers to living in a self-sufficient manner without reliance on one or more public utilities. Usually involves a system of generating power that doesn’t require connection to utility electricity grids.

OGF OGF stands for old growth forestry. There are no set definitions for OGF, many groups have their own interpretations, but there are characteristics that are evident throughout.

Oil – fossil fuel used to produce petrol etc and other materials such as plastics.

One Percent for the Planet: An organization consisting of businesses that pledge to give at least 1% of their total annual revenues to charities and organizations that help the natural environment.

Organic: Certified Organic Products have been raised or grown without the use of harmful toxic pesticides, insectisides, herbiciedes , hormones, fertilizers. No articifical colors or flavors have been added.

Organic Certification Just because a company says it’s organic, doesn’t mean that it’s really organic, unless, of course, it’s organically certified. Then you know it’s good stuff! Requirements vary from country to country and generally involve a set of production, storage, packaging and shipping standards. These include avoidance of synthetic inputs (i.e. fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), use of farmland that has been free from chemicals for a number of years, usually three or more, maintaining strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products and periodic on-site inspections overseen by a government official.

Organic Cotton First, a word about traditional cotton. Cotton is the second most pesticide-laden crop in the world. Five of the top nine pesticides used on cotton in the U.S. (cyanide, dicofol, naled, propargite and trifluralin) are known cancer-causing chemicals. And, it takes approximately 1/3 of a pound of chemicals to grow enough cotton to make just one t-shirt. Organic cotton, on the other hand, is grown in certified pesticide-free and herbicide-free soil, using organic farming methods, which produce healthier fabrics, preserve the quality of our water and prevent toxins from entering the human food chain in the form of cottonseed and other byproducts.

Organic Food Here’s an interesting tidbit. Under the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards, organic food is defined by how it cannot be made, rather than by how it can be made. Foods must be produced without the use of sewer-sludge fertilizers, most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, biotechnology (genetic engineering), irradiation and antibiotics. Put down the Twinkie…

Ozone Hole– A thinning break in the ozone layer. Seasonal ozone holes have been observed over the Antarctic and artic regions, part of Canada, and the extreme north eastern United States.

Ozone Layer– The protective layer in the atmosphere, about 12-15 miles above sea level, which absorbs some of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, thereby reducing the amount of potentially harmful radiation that reaches the earth’s surface.

Passive building design–Building configurations that take advantage of natural, renewable resources (like sunlight, cooling breezes, etc.) and typically do not involve any moving parts or mechanical processes.

Passive Solar Means of using sunlight for energy without active mechanical systems. Converts sunlight into usable heat (water, air, thermal mass), causes air-movement for ventilating, stores heat for future use without the assistance of other energy sources. Passive solar systems have little to no operating costs, often have low maintenance costs and emit no greenhouse gases in operation. Requires careful site planning, selection of building materials and building features. Energy conservation reduces the needed size of any renewable or conventional energy system, and greatly enhances the economics, so it must be performed first.

Peak Oil When will the world’s oil run out? It’s a hotly debated question among energy experts, geologists, politicians, and others-and this term is at the center of the debate. It refers to a point, possibly in the near future, at which global oil production will reach a maximum, and then start to decline. A geologist named M. King Hubbert first came up with the peak oil theory, so it is sometimes referred to as Hubbert’s Curve.

Perceived obsolesence – The art of making products that go out of fashion or “date”, so you buy more slightly different ones, for example the fashion industry. Also see Planned obsolesence

PBDE, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, is an industrial toxic chemical used as a flame retardant in plastics, furniture and mattresses. In April, the state Legislature passed a measure that prohibits the manufacture, sale or distribution of most items containing PBDEs, which goes into effect for mattresses after Jan. 1, 2008. The chemical would be banned in upholstered furniture and in televisions and computers after Jan. 1, 2011.

Perfluorochemicals (PFCS) These man-made compounds show up in a host of items we associate with making our lives a little easier: stain repellents, water-resistant fabric additives, and non-stick cookware coatings, among other things. Unfortunately, the very qualities that make them useful also make them highly persistent in the environment. They do not break down, but rather linger indefinitely. And they have been linked to numerous health problems, including cancer. In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that PFCs are in the blood of nearly every person in the United States. Whether they got there through contact with household items, or through environmental pollution from industrial uses of the chemicals, is unclear. But the potential dangers have led the EPA to take one type of PFC off the market (called PFOS, which was used in stain and water repellants); some prominent manufacturers, notably 3M, have voluntarily stopped producing others.

PermacultureDesign system and philosophy that uses land in a way that integrates human dwellings and activities with local natural ecologies. Loosely formed network of training in alternative cultural ideas and permaculture gardening.

Pesticide These potent chemicals a major reason we wash our vegetables well before eating them-and an argument for buying organic. A pesticide is any product meant to repel, discourage, or kill pests-including insects but also rodents, fungi, weeds, bacteria, and microorganisms. Pesticides can take the form of bug spray, weed killer (sometimes called herbicide), and even bathroom sanitizer. Many chemical pesticides are toxic pollutants and can carry health risks if inhaled or ingested; biologically based pesticides can be safer choices, but aren’t always. Other, more reliably safe alternatives include the use of companion plantings in the garden and physical rodent traps indoors. For more on pesticides, click here.

PET: Polyethylene terephthalate #1 – a resin of the polyester family used for beverage, food and other liquid containers for its thermoforming, lightweight and semi-rigid to rigid capability.

Petrochemical The source of many of the highly useful but unsustainable and potentially damaging products in our world today, this is any of a long list of chemicals derived from petroleum or natural gas. Many petrochemicals are used to produce plastics, synthetic rubbers, and synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic. They’re also the basis of many detergents, dyes, inks, cosmetics, adhesives, fertilizers, pesticides, and other products encountered in daily life.

Petroleum-based From the gasoline in your car, to your car’s dashboard, to the lip balm in your pocket (and maybe even the fabric of the pocket itself), petroleum-based products have infiltrated nearly every aspect of life. They include any material or substance derived from petroleum: fuels such as gasoline, of course, but also petrochemical products such as synthetic textiles, plastics, and the ingredients of items as ordinary (and necessary) as medicines, foodstuffs, and household cleaners. The vast majority of petroleum is used for fuel, but fully 10 percent of the petroleum consumed in the U.S. is used to make plastics, fabrics, medicines, and other non-fuel products.

Petroleum Derivative:Polyethylene terephthalate #1 – a resin of the polyester family used for beverage, food and other liquid containers for its thermoforming, lightweight and semi-rigid to rigid capability.

Phantom Load Your house is probably haunted…by a phantom load. This is the small but not insignificant amount of energy that some of your appliances-including your television, stereo, answering machine, and microwave oven-are using when they are turned off. It’s definitely a little spooky: Appliances that contain clocks or timers, or that have remote controls and/or “instant on” features, are sneakily sipping away at your power 24 hours a day. Unplugging the devices when you’re not using them-or plugging them into a power strip with an on/off switch-is often the only way to avoid this waste of power. It’s enough to make you wonder what else is going on when your back is turned.

Phenol Formaldehyde In layman’s terms, this is a glue. It’s one of two synthetic, formaldehyde-basedpolymer resins commonly used in homes, primarily as an adhesive in pressed-wood products such as plywood; the other is urea formaldehyde (UF). Of the two, PF is the safer choice, since it releases significantly lower levels of formaldehyde, which is a carcinogenic volatile organic compound (VOC). The best choice is formaldehyde-free resin

Photovoltaic panels – solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity. Power is produced when sunlight strikes the semiconductor material and creates an electrical current.

Phthalates Nearly impossible to pronounce and nearly impossible to avoid, phthalates are a group of chemicals used in a wide range of household, industrial, and medical products, primarily as plasticizers-they make plastics such as vinyl(found in shower curtains, toys, flooring, and the like) soft and flexible. They are also used as solvents in many cosmetics and perfumes. Just how harmful phthalates are to human health is unclear. Although laboratory tests have shown them to cause endocrine disruption and other problems in animals, it isn’t known whether these risks translate to humans. As such, the Food and Drug Administration and other U.S. agencies have not seen fit to regulate their use. Plastic baby toys and teethers that contain phthalates are banned, however, in the European Union. Chew on this: It’s pronounced THA-lates.

Planned obsolesence – The art of making a product break/fail after a certain amount of time. Not so soon that you will blame the manufacturer, but soon enough for you to buy another one and make more profit for them. Also see Perceived obsolesence.

Plastic – man-made durable and flexible synthetic-based product. Composed mainly of petroleum.

Plastic bags – not very good for the environment. Read some tips on what to do with plastic bags.

Plastic recycling – there are seven different categories of plastics that can be recycled. See our plastic types chart here.

Plywood his tough, inexpensive pressed-wood product is commonplace in homes-in furniture, flooring, and cabinetry. It consists of several layers, or plies, of wood bonded together, with the grain of each ply at a right angle to that of the next-creating strong, split-resistant panels. Formaldehyde-based adhesives are typically used in plywood: exterior-grade, softwood panels are usually bonded with phenol formaldehyde (PF), while hardwood plywood paneling, made for cabinets and other interior finish work, usually contains urea formaldehyde (UF). Both offgas formaldehyde, but PF emits considerably less than UF, making exterior-grade plywood a safer choice. More eco-friendly choices include formaldehyde-free plywood, wheatboard, medium-density fiberboard (MDF), and oriented-strand board (OSB).

Pollution Credit How much is one company allowed to pollute? That might depend on how many credits it has. The practice of capping emissions levels (putting a limit on how much a company is permitted to pollute) and issuing credits to those companies who fall below the cap-credits that can then be sold to companies who are above it-represents an attempt to use the free market to regulate pollution and encourage better environmental practices. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established one such system, specifically targeting acid-rain pollutants, as a part of the Clean Air Act of 1990. Just how effective pollution trading is, in the long run, is the subject of much debate; many environmentalists see it as a scheme that allows the worst polluters to continue their dirty ways without responsibility, as long as they have deep pockets. See also carbon market.

Pollution Prevention: Reducing the amount of energy, materials, packaging, or water in the design, manufacturing, or purchasing of products or materials in an effort to increase efficient use of resources, reduce toxicity, and eliminate waste

Polyester Not just the fiber that makes leisure suits and gauchos possible, polyester has long outlasted those misguided fashion statements from the ’70s. The term refers to a whole family of petroleum-based plastic polymers. As a fiber, it is used to make resilient, low-maintenance (though flammable) synthetic fabrics; it is also made from the same material (polyethylene terephthalate, or PET) as many soda bottles and food containers. In fact, recycled PET plastics can provide source material for polyester fibers.

Polyethylene This lightweight, translucent, and flexible plastic is used for grocery bags, food containers, household-cleaner bottles, house wrap products, and much more. It is one of the most common-and least toxic-petroleum-based plastics. There are high- and low-density polyethylene varieties; these are labeled numbers 2 and 4, respectively, inside the triangular recycling symbol. For more on plastic, click here.

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) his is the stuff that holds your soda, your peanut butter, and possibly your bathroom cleaner. This common polymer makes plastic that is strong, shatter-resistant, and cheap to produce. It’s also the raw material used for synthetic fabrics such as polyester and Dacron. Of course, like all traditional plastics, it’s a petroleum-based product, making it a burden on both resources and landfills. Fortunately, it’s one of the most recyclable plastics, so that burden has been reduced as communities have increased theirrecycling participation and industries have cropped up to put it to good use in new products. Recycled PET plastics are used for a number of purposes, including polyester carpeting, clothing, fiberfill in coats, and automotive parts. PET plastics are labeled with a number 1 in the recycling triangle. For more on plastics, click here.

Polyurethane it’s used as foam insulation, upholstery stuffing, shiny wood-floor sealant, and more. This synthetic polymer is strong, lightweight, and versatile. It is highly effective as an insulator, which earns it green points, though it is obviously not eco-friendly from a resource standpoint, since it’s petroleum-based. Polyurethane foam insulation was traditionally blown in with CFCs or HCFCs, which are known ozone depleters. Today, more eco-friendly blowing agents are used with this material, and it’s a component of structural insulated panels (SIPs), a construction element that is generally smiled upon by green builders.

Post Consumer Content: Waste recovered from consumers and recycled

Post Industrial Content: Waste recovered from industry and recycled.

PVC: Polyvinyl Choloride: Plastic used in building materials and toys. Chemicals added may be used in offgasing.

Potable Water– Water that is free enough of chemicals, particulate matter, and biological nasties (such as parasites and bacteria) to drink.

Pre Fab A house in a box? In construction, prefabrication means creating the pieces of a building-complete with interior walls, flooring, windows, and all the pipes and wiring-in a factory. The pieces are then hauled to the building site for assembly-a practice that saves time, money, and, in many cases, resources. Prefab housing, first popularized almost a hundred years ago, has been undergoing a resurgence in recent years, showcasing a more modern look and touting itself as a green way to build. Some critics argue that prefab construction can be just as wasteful as on-site construction, and that many prefab homes are built with eco-unfriendly materials such as vinyl. As with many other purchases, buyers might want to ask some questions to be sure the companies they are working with are as environmentally responsible as they claim.

Pressure Treated Wood this is wood that is used mostly for outdoor construction-in decks, for example. Pressure-treated wood has been chemically impregnated with preservatives that resist rot and insects. While this treatment can make wood durable and long-lasting (definitely a plus for the environment), the wood must be handled with care. Working with it (cutting it and producing sawdust, for example) can lead to dangerous exposure to the toxic chemicals that permeate the wood; disposing of it is also a problem, as it must be treated ashazardous waste. Pressure-treated wood should never be burned, as it can create toxic fumes and ash.

Radiant Heat

Radon An invisible threat in many homes, this colorless, odorless, radioactive gas, radon is produced naturally in the soil from the decay of uranium. If it enters buildings (via holes in the foundation, cracks in walls, and the like; it can also enter via well water), it can become trapped and accumulate, creating a serious health hazard. Radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer, after smoking. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that one in 15 U.S. homes has a radon problem to some degree, and recommends that all homeowners have their homes tested (either by a professional or with a do-it-yourself kit. (Test kits are available at home-improvement stores and from the National Safety Council.) If elevated radon levels are found, there are steps you can take to lower them: Having a fan and vent system installed, to vent the radon from beneath the house to the outside, is one approach.

Rainwater Harvesting: Rainwater harvesting is an ancient practice of catching and holding rain for later use. In a rainwater harvesting system, rain is gathered from a building rooftop or other source and is held in large containers for future use, such as watering gardens or washing cars. This practice reduces the demand on water resources and is excellent during times of drought.Source: Water Resources Group


Recycle symbol – the chasing arrow symbol used to show that a product or package can be recycled. The three arrows on the symbol represent different components of the recycling process. The top arrow represents the collection of recyclable materials. The second arrow (bottom right) represents the recyclables being processed into recycled products and the third arrow on the bottom left represents when the consumer actually buys a product with recycled content.

Recycling: The process of collecting, sorting, cleaning, treating and reusing materials that would otherwise go into landfills.

Recycled Plastic Lumber  house made out of soda bottles and milk jugs may sound like a third-grade art project, but those discarded containers are exactly what goes into making recycled plastic lumber, which is used in the construction of real buildings. This wood substitute is highly durable and resistant to water and pests, and it can play a brilliant role in construction. On its own, plastic lumber isn’t strong enough to replace load-bearing structural components, but some is reinforced with steel or fiberglass. Recycled plastic lumber saves timber resources, reduces the stream of waste to landfills, and eliminates the need for chemical preservative treatments and pesticides.

Recycled Recovered Materials: Waste materials and by products that would have ended up as waste.

Recyclability: The ability of a product or material to be recovered and reused.

Reduce: Using Less of Stuff

Remanufacturing: A recycled concept by which an existing product can have its useful life extended through a secondary manufacturing or refurbishing process such as remanufactured systems furniture.

Re:modern: A design company committed to design integrity. Re:modern is a leading retailer of sustainable modern home furnishings, gifts, and accessories.

Remodernist: A Modernist who believes that social and environmental issues must also be considerations in future-forward thinking, in addition to form and function.

Renewable energy – alternative energy sources such as wind power or solar energy that can keep producing energy indefinitely without being used up.

Renewable resources – Like renewable energy, resources such as wind, sunlight and trees that regenerate. See Non-renewable resources.

Renewable Materials: Materials, such as bamboo, which can be regenerated.

Re-Purpose: The practice of using something in another form, not having to manufacture

Re-Think: The practice of thinking how use this product can be used.

Retro Fit this is not about snug bell-bottoms. Retrofit is a term that refers to taking an existing structure, fixture, automobile, or other piece of equipment and making it better. In eco-friendly terms, a building can be retrofitted to work on solar power, a lamp to use energy-efficient bulbs, and a car to have a more efficient emissions system.

Re-Use: The practice of reusing stuff

R-value–A unit of thermal resistance used for comparing insulating values of different materials; the higher the R-value of a material, the greater its insulating properties.

Rugmark: A foundation that is seeking to end child labor and provide educational opportunities for children.

Runoff his is one source of pollutants in the water supply. The term refers to rainwater or irrigation water that is not absorbed by the soil, but instead travels over the surface of the ground, picking up contaminants such as pesticides and fertilizers. Those chemicals are then carried into lakes and rivers and drinking-water sources. Runoff also leads to soil erosion

Sasawashi: Sasawashi is a fabric made of Japanese paper and the kumazasa herb. Just know that it’s eco-friendly, looks like linen and is starting to be used by clothing designers.

Salvage Materials: Materials gathered from deconstruction that can be reused or repurposed without being manufactured

SeagrassGrow in marine, fully saline environments. Much softer than Coir or Sisal, Seagrass is also less durable and incompatible with moisture. Smooth in texture with a soft, neutral color. Is biodegradable and a renewable resource.

SeaCell: SeaCell is a fabric made out of Lyocell (a 100% wood pulp fiber) and seaweed. Here’s the fun part. Supposedly, the nutrients from the seaweed are absorbed by your body when you wear it, creating a sense of well-being. It is available in two versions “Pure” and “Active,” the latter of which has been enriched with silver. Silver has been known to have antibacterial properties which help to neutralize odors and provide the fabric with a clean feel.

Seasonal Energy Efficiency (SEER) Here’s a cool number to know. This is the rating, given by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), to central air conditioners and heat pumps (operating in cooling mode) to indicate their level of energy efficiency. It is the cooling output of the unit (in Btus) divided by the energy input (in watt hours) over the course of the cooling season, in an average U.S. climate. The higher the SEER, the more efficient the unit will be. As of January 23, 2006, the federal minimum standard SEER was 13-those rated even higher will have better energy performance.

SFI Combined of the American Forest and Paper Association, Sustainable Forestry Initiative’s primary principle is to guarantee ongoing renewable resources country wide.

Shiatsu: The most widely known form of acupressure, shiatsu has been used in Japan for more than 1,000 years to treat pain and illness and for general health maintenance. Using a series of techniques, practitioners apply rhythmic finger pressure at specific points on the body in order to stimulate chi, or vital energy.

Sick Building Syndrome: Health complaints such as nausea, headache, lethargy, eye irritation can be symptons from person when they are in a building and that disappear after leving the builings.

Silk: Soft elegant cloth that feels cool in the heat and warm in the cold. It also absorbs moisture without feeling damp. Here are some things you may not know. Silk is a natural sustainable fiber. China still produces the finest silk. It takes a silk worm 3-4 days to spin a cocoon around itself, which is made out of a single continuous thread between 2000 and 3000 feet long (equal to 10 football field lengths). It takes about 110 cocoons to make a tie, about 630 cocoons to make a blouse and about 12,000 cocoons to make a silk-filled comforter.

Sisal Made from the central stalk of a type of Agave cactus. Produces a hard fiber that is mechanically spun into yarn and woven into rugs and wallcoverings. As durable as Coir, but with more sheen and a smoother texture. Is biodegradable and a renewable resource. Has no natural resistance to insects, bacteria and moisture. Should be used indoors only.

Slow Food: Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

Small Business: A company that employs under 100 people and is usually a privately owned corporation. Small businesses fuel local economic growth and innova

Smart Growth:”Smart growth” covers a range of development and conservation strategies that help protect our natural environment and make our communities more attractive, economically stronger and more socially diverse. Based on the experience of communities around the nation that have used smart growth approaches to create and maintain great neighborhoods, the Smart Growth Network developed a set of 10 basic principles:

  1. Mix land uses
  2. Take advantage of compact building design
  3. Create a range of housing opportunities and choices
  4. Create walkable neighborhoods
  5. Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place
  6. Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty and critical environmental areas
  7. Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities
  8. Provide a variety of transportation choices
  9. Make development decisions predictable, fair and cost-effective
  10. Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Smog It’s that dirty brown haze that hangs over a city on a hot summer day, reminding us that we probably should get away for a bit and breathe some country air. The word originated from a contraction of smoke and fog, but the ugly stuff consists mostly of ground-level ozone, which is formed when oxides of nitrogen (NOx) mix with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air. Heavy motor-vehicle traffic, industrial emissions, and the use of chemical solvents release the offending substances into the air; hot, sunny weather facilitates the chemical reaction that creates ozone. Smog can lead to lung irritation, asthma, emphysema, and other health problems. For more on smog, click here.

Socially Responsible: This term usually describes businesses. Being socially responsible means that businesses operate in ways that do not harm the environment, provide good salaries and benefits for its employees and generally contribute to the welfare of their communities.

Steward: A person who takes the responsibility of making decisions that will allow resources to be maintained for future generations.

Solar Collector Ever wish you could bottle the sun’s warmth on a summer day? This device effectively does that: It captures the sun’s energy in the form of radiation and converts it to heat, which is then used to warm water or indoor air.

SOLAR ENERGY-Energy derived from the sun.The solar panels that most of us associate with solar energy are called photovoltaic panels; they transform the sun’s rays into usable electricity. Solar thermal processes can be used to heat our hot water.

Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) he number to know when selecting windows, doors, and skylights. It’s a measure of how much of the sun’s heat is transmitted through those fixtures, expressed in a number from zero to one. A window that has a SHGC of .3 will allow 30 percent of the sun’s heat to pass through. Whether you want a higher or lower number will depend on your goal: A product with a low SHGC will help to block heat and reduce cooling loads in hot weather; a product with a high SHGC will be more effective at harnessing solar heat in cold weather.

Solar heating – heat from the sun is absorbed by collectors and transferred by pumps or fans to a storage unit for later use or to the house interior directly. Controls regulating the operation are needed. Or the heat can be transferred to water pumps for hot wate

Solar thermal/solar PV–In solar thermal, the energy of the sun is used to pre-heat water before sending it to a hot water heater; in solar PV, photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s energy directly into electricity.

Solid bleached sulfite The little box that housed your last tube of toothpaste, the cereal cartons in your kitchen cabinet…these and many more packages that shoppers pick up every day are made of this ubiquitous paperboard. Solid bleached sulfite is a concern for the eco-conscious because it is made entirely from virgin tree fiber, rather than from post-consumer recycled content

Source ReductionA change in the design, manufacture or use of materials or products to reduce their toxicity prior to prior to entering the waste stream.

Soy Soy fiber is made from tofu manufacturing waste. The soy protein is liquefied and then extruded as filaments (long continuous fibers) that are cut and processed. It is incredibly soft and feels similar to cashmere.

Stormwater management/run-off–Efficient management of water from rainfall that would otherwise flow off of land instead of soaking in.

Styrene-butadiene (SB) latex This is one of many products that can affect the indoor air quality in homes and businesses. A synthetic, petroleum-based polymer, it is commonly used as an adhesive for carpet backing (an estimated 90 percent of the carpeting made in the United States uses SB latex). It is responsible for the offgassingof several chemicals, including styrene and a related chemical known as 4 PC; they can be detected by that characteristic “new carpet smell” and make some people feel ill. Although the carpet industry claims that the presence of these chemicals does not cause harm, some manufacturers have made efforts to reduce their use. The Carpet and Rug Institute‘s Green Label and Green Label Plus program help identify those carpet products with the lowest levels of toxic offgassing.

Sulfur dioxide – SO2 is a heavy, smelly gas which can be condensed into a clear liquid. It’s used to make sulfuric acid, bleaching agents, preservatives and refrigerants and a major source of air pollution.

Sustainable: Long term durability that does not undermine social or environmental systems of Support.

Sustainable Development: Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability to meet the needs of the future. Encompasses three parts: environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and social-political sustainability.

Sustainably-harvested: A renewable resource that as been harvested in a way that allows it’s inherent regeneration and continued ongoing supply.

Sustainable Yield: Amount of material which can be removed from an ecosystme with compromising the ability of the ecosystem to regenerate itself.

Synthetic: Virtually any material produced from other than natural materials

Tai Chi/Martial Arts: The martial arts are perhaps best known as means of self-defense, but they are also used to improve physical fitness and promote mental and spiritual development. The highly disciplined movements and forms are thought to unite body and mind and bring balance to the individual’s life. “External” methods (such as karate and judo) stress endurance and muscular strength, while “internal” methods (such as tai chi and aikido) stress relaxation and control. Tai chi has been used as part of treatment for back problems, ulcers, and stress.

Tankless Water Heater:

Tencel This super-fabric is not only ultra-soft and elegant with an incredible drape and versatility, it is also 100% biodegradable, durable, dye-able, and machine washable/dryable. What else could you ask for? That it be made of cellulose that is extracted from tree farms planted on land that is unsuitable for food crops or grazing? You got it.

TCF Stands for Totally Chlorine Free. It is pulp that is bleached without the use of chlorine or chlorinated chemical compounds.

Thermal bridgingAn element in a building envelope which is a poor insulator and compromises the insulating value of the envelope, e.g., wood studs without exterior insulation.

Toxic– Capable of having an adverse effect on an organism; poisonous; harmful or deadly

Trashion: re create art, jewelry, fashion and objects for the home, made from materials that were leftover, discarded, and found. Trashion is all about bringing out the beauty in unconventional objects and materials

Triple Bottom Line Extending the traditional economic measure of performance based on profitability to include performance on environmental and social issues as well.

Unbleached– Unbleached cotton is Ecru colour, sounder for the environment than bleached or dyed cotton. Unbleached paper may not attain the same high white finish as that of bleached paper but is good for general use, however buying recycled paper could even be seen as more important than recycling used paper because demand for recycled paper in the U.K. currently lags behind supply!

Urea Formaldehyde (UF) his glue can be found in most homes, and it’s sticky stuff. It’s one of two common, synthetic, formaldehyde-based polymer resins, primarily used as an adhesive in pressed-wood products such as particleboard and in carpet backing; the other is phenol formaldehyde (PF). Of the two, UF offgasses significantly higher levels of formaldehyde-a carcinogenic volatile organic compound (VOC). It’s generally safest to choose formaldehyde-free products, but when not possible, those that use PF are preferable to those with UF.

Utility Grid this is the energy highway. The grid is the system of distribution lines that delivers energy from power plants to homes and businesses across the country, much like roadways deliver cars and people to where they need to go. The grid is owned and operated by the hundreds of utility companies across the country. Part of your electric bill goes to paying the cost of distributing the energy from the power plant, along the grid, and into your home. Those who live off the utility grid get their power from other sources, such as wind and solar generators, and sometimes have a surplus that they can feed back into the grid-and get paid for it.

U-valueThe measure of the rate of non-solar heat loss or gain through a material. The reciprocal of R-value. The lower the U-value, the greater the material’s resistance to heat flow and the better its insulating value.

Varnish Products involved in refinishing are often powerful enough to knock your socks off, which is why these jobs are best done outdoors or with every window thrown open wide. This thin, clear, typically oil-based liquid coating, applied to wood and other hard surfaces for a durable, protective finish, is one good example. Solvents found in most varnishes emit volatile organiccompounds (VOCs), which can cause skin and lung irritation, and even long-term illness and cancer. Fortunately, it’s possible to find solvent-free natural varnishes such those based on linseed oil

Vegan is a form of vegetarianism that excludes all animal ingredients or by-products such as leather and wool.

Vegetable based Inks– Using vegetable oil, rather than petroleum solvents, as the vehicle for carrying pigment. Vegetable ink colours tend to be more vibrant than petroleum-based inks, but may take longer to dry

Vegetable Dye This is any natural dye that is derived from plant sources, such as roots or flowers.

Veneer This is a very thin sheet of wood. It is used to make plywood (many sheets laminated together) or as a facing material on furniture, flooring, and more. Some veneer products are environmentally friendly in that they use less wood overall than solid-wood alternatives. The type of adhesive used to bond the veneer can be problematic, however, for indoor air quality. If choosing veneer, it’s smart to look for products made with formaldehyde-free adhesive

Vermicomposting – the process whereby worms feed on slowly decomposing materials (e.g., vegetable scraps) in a controlled environment to produce nutrient-rich soil.

Vintage materials, although often impossible to determine with any precision their eco-footprint in terms of pre-production and production, can be put to good use. By re-establishing them in a new context, often beautiful materials can be enjoyed yet again. The incorporation and use of vintage textiles is a celebration the reduce, reuse, recycle ethos which in turn encourages re-evaluation of worth.

Vinyl his durable plastic can be found just about anywhere: in your shower curtain, raincoat, or baby’s toys. It’s used for a range of construction materials, including siding, flooring, and pipes, as well as for products such as textiles and medical supplies-it’s convenient, easy to work with, and cheap. Unfortunately, PVC is also a danger to human health and the environment. It releases dioxin, a highly potent carcinogen, during production and disposal; and phthalates used to treat PVC to make it flexible can leach out and have toxic health effects. Many companies have ceased using PVC in their products, and more and more consumers are discarding vinyl in favor of safer alternatives such as rubber, linoleum, wood, and glass, to name a few.Also called polyvinyl chloride (PVC)For more on plastics, click here.

Virgin Product Typically used to describe products made from 100% synthetic or petroleum derivatives.

VOC: Volatile Organic Compounds; The lower the VOC the lower the toxic level. VOC is found in paint, sealants, glues, adhesives, wood, stains,

Waste Stream Describes the aggregate of wastes that is disposed of by humans.

Waste Management

Waste to Energy – Burning of industrial waste to provide steam, heat or electricity. Sometimes referred to as waste-to-fuel process.

Waste Neutral – When a greater weight of products made from recycled materials is the same or greater weight of materials sent to be recycled, Waste Neutral will be achieved.

Waste Reduction: A process to reduce or eliminate that amount of waste generated at its source or to reduce the amount of toxicity from waste or the reuse of materials. The creation of waste is a growing problem on the environment, as landfills get filled and toxins leach back into the ground. The best way to reduce waste is not to create it in the first place.

Watsu (Water Shiatsu): Watsu, or water shiatsu, is a form of massage performed in chest-high body-temperature water. The practitioner guides the client through a series of dance like movements while using Zen shiatsu techniques (stretches and finger pressure) in order to release blockages in the body’s meridians, or energy pathways. Watsu is used to release tension and to treat a wide variety of physical and emotional problems.

Wastewater: Water that has been used and contaminated. Wastewater must be purified before being used again or before being returned to the environment.
Water Based Paint For most home projects, this is your go-to paint. Also called latex paint, it has a binder that is dissolved in water. In general, water-based paints are less toxic and contain fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than solvent-based (also called oil-based or alkyd) paints.

Got a big paint job coming up? Choosing between water- and oil-based is one of the first decisions you’ll have to make. Water-based paints are durable, dry quickly with little odor, and can be cleaned up with soap and water. Oil-based paints, though they hold up better over the long term, have stronger fumes, dry slowly, and require flammable solvents such as turpentine and paint thinner for cleanup. In recycling programs, water-based paints are not considered hazardous waste; oil-based paints, however, are classified as such and are more difficult to dispose of. A note about oil-based paint: Before 1978, oil-based paints often contained lead, a dangerous heavy metal, as a pigment and drying agent. As a result, older homes may contain hazardous levels of lead-in dust, peeling paint, and paint chips (often ingested by children). It’s important to have your home tested if you suspect that it contains lead paint; the material can be removed (through a fairly arduous process called abatement), or sealed in to prevent dust and chips.

Water Purification This is the process by which water from the ground, or some other source, is treated to make it drinkable. While these processes vary from community to community, the basic steps look like this:

  • Water is pulled from a surface or reservoir source through a set of screens that filter out large debris, like leaves and twigs.
  • Alum and iron salts or synthetic organic polymers are added, which bond to the dirt in the water and make it heavy.
  • This mixture is sent through several sedimentation chambers, inside which the heavy dirt particles sink to the bottom.
  • The water is sent through activated carbon filters, which remove funny tastes and odors.
  • Finally, the water is disinfected by adding chlorine or ozone.

WaterSense:Label for water efficient products

WEEE – Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, your broken or not wanted electronic gadgets likemobile phones or computers.

White Roof:

Wild Harvested :This term is often applied to herbs and the essential oils they produce when they are cultivated without chemicals/pesticides.

Wildlife: Describes all native, non-domesticated animals and plants living in the wild.

Wind Energy

Wind Farm This is a sort of natural power plant. It’s a group of many wind turbines located together in an area that gets steady wind (in open, rural spaces, near mountain passes, even in offshore locations). The turbines collect the wind’s energy and convert it to electricity, which can then be sold to the local utility grid. Wind is a renewable, virtually pollution-free source of electricity.

Windpower – energy derived from the wind.

Wool (Organic) Superior durability with a natural resistance to soiling. Naturally flame resistant, sound absorbing, biodegradeable and a renewable resource.


Zero-Energy Homes: Homes that aren’t connected to the utility grids because they are designed to produce as much energy as they consume. Most zero-energy definitions don’t include the emissions generated in it.

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  1. says

    This glossary is great, but your definition of “conflict-free diamonds” isn’t accurate and need to be changed. As it stands, it is very misleading.

    Conflict-free only refers to war violence by rebel movements. Conflict-free is no reflection on violence in general, child labor, other human rights abuses and certainly doesn’t reflect sound environmental practices. Conflict-free also only refers to the mining of the diamonds and does not take cutting and polishing into consideration. It is difficult to ensure that diamonds are conflict free, but they don’t need to be from Canada to qualify. Most jewelers can’t tell you that diamonds are conflict-free because their wholesalers don’t really know. Most diamonds mined in Canada are shipped to India and Africa for cutting and polishing. Only Canadian diamonds certified from the Government of the Northwest Territories remain in-country throughout the whole process.

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